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Posts Tagged ‘Ian Burfield’

Seventeen years is a long time in theatre-going and my reaction to this 1957 Arnold Wesker play is very different today to when I first saw it at the Royal Court in 1994. Somehow it has lost its impact as a play, even if it still impresses as ‘spectacle’ in Bijan Sheibani’s production, which fills the Olivier stage like few productions do.

It’s really a ‘slice of life’ on stage. Many of the characters have their own stories, but there isn’t an overall story as such. It’s a stage picture of life in a busy kitchen in the late 50’s with snatches of social history – but not in enough depth to make it a ‘state of the nation’ play. It’s a very realistic portrait of work and it captures post-war attitudes and habits, but it doesn’t fully satisfy. It takes a while to warm up and the second act is fatally flawed by a dull first half. It would make a better one-acter with 10 minutes cut from the beginning of the first act and 20 from the beginning of the second.

Giles Cadle’s design is one of the best I have seen in the Olivier, though – a completely realistic restaurant kitchen with fine attention to detail. The ensemble is excellent, with Tom Brook standing out as Peter and lovely cameos from Tricia Kelly as Bertha and Ian Burfield as Max. The balletic scenes, where everyone seems to move as one, are stunning too. It’s hard to fault the production, but I’m afraid it doesn’t paper over the cracks in the play. It’s stylish and stylised but it doesn’t grab you and keep you for two hours.

What I thought was a classic appears now to be a play of its time.

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